Brilliant Botanicals: A Deep Dive Into Yerba Mate
Yerba mate - pronounced mah-tay by the way - is the caffeinated beverage of choice and even celebrated as the official national drink in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It’s been enjoyed for centuries as a natural energy booster and antioxidant powerhouse - without the energy crash often experienced by coffee drinkers.
You might be under the impression that tea and coffee are the most common caffeinated beverages in the world. While they’re definitely omnipresent in European and western cultures, there are a multitude of other plant-derived caffeinated beverages such guarana, cola (kola), and cacao. But only yerba mate is known as the “drink of the gods” and for good reason.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a traditional South American caffeinated drink that is gaining popularity globally. It is thought to bring the same euphoric joy as chocolate with the health benefits of tea and the strength of coffee. The herbal tea is prepared from the twigs and leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis, a type of holly. The twigs and leaves are dried over fire and then steeped in hot water to make the tea. The tea is traditionally consumed from a gourd called the bombilla which comes with a silver drinking straw that helps to filter leaf fragments. It’s important to use hot but not boiling water when preparing mate in a bombilla, and when drinking you should under no circumstances touch or move the straw with your hands. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being offered a sip from the bombilla, always accept. Declining would be the cultural equivalent of spitting in someone’s face, so avoid the discomfort and treat yourself to some mate. It’s a sign of friendship and respect and an indication that a bond has been formed between the drinkers.
Yerba Mate Origins
The origins of yerba mate are filled with magical stories and folklore. The herb was discovered by the indigenous people known as the Guarani, who then resided in the region that currently includes Paraguay, northern Argentina and Uruguay, eastern Bolivia, and the south of Brazil.
They say that the Goddesses of the Moon and the Cloud visited the earth one day and stumbled upon a wild jaguar, threatening to attack. They were saved by an old man and in exchange for his kind deed, they bestowed upon him a new kind of plant and taught him to make a “drink of friendship” from its leaves. That’s why yerba mate is believed to be a “gift from the gods."
It was a dietary staple for the nomadic and agriculture-dependent, and warrior-based lifestyles of native tribes. Yerba mate was also used for medicinal purposes. The indigenous tribes thought that yerba mate was a gift from the gods to sustain life on earth and increase vitality while healing the sick. The herb was also used in religious ceremonies and other tribal ceremonies.
Yerba mate contains the stimulant known as caffeine. Its energising yet simultaneously soothing impact made it popular among gauchos and vaqueros, who - to this day - sip yerba mate for energy during long harvest days or cattle drives. It was also important during periods of famine or drought thanks to its high nutrient content and was also sipped at night and in the morning around campfires while people shared their stories and adventures.
As the Spanish Empire began colonising South American countries, they witnessed the energy and health benefits of the traditional drink. They adopted the yerba mate culture, quickly popularising and spreading the herb while they conquered the South American continent. Unlike cocoa and coffee which were domesticated and cultivated for cash-rich European exports, yerba mate was not domesticated, and it only grew wildly. It took several centuries for the Europeans to find out how to turn the plant into a reliable cash crop. The secret to growing yerba mate was that its seeds only germinate after they passed through the digestive tracts of specific native birds.
Health Benefits of Yerba Mate
Rich in nutrients and antioxidants
The herb contains several important plant nutrients, such as polyphenols, xanthines, saponins, and caffeoyl derivatives. Polyphenols are a large group of antioxidants that help the body to manage free radicals. Xanthines are stimulants, such as theobromine and caffeine. Saponins are bitter ingredients that have cholesterol-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties. Caffeoyl derivatives are the main antioxidants in yerba mate.
Yerba mate is packed with nutrients and is believed to have all the necessary micronutrients essential to sustain life. Each serving of yerba mate contains zinc, vitamin A, sulphur, vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B5, sodium, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, manganese, and magnesium. It also contains other important phytonutrients such as 15 amino acids, tannins, flavonoids, trace minerals, and chlorophyll. Studies show that yerba mate contains 11 polyphenols and has higher antioxidant power than tea-based drinks.
Yerba mate has a higher concentration of antioxidants than green tea and it has seven out of the nine essential amino acids. All in all, yerba mate is a powerful antioxidant that will help your body manage free radicals,
Can Improve mental focus and boost energy levels
Yerba mate contains 85mg of caffeine per cup, which is more than the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea but less than a cup of coffee. Similar to most beverages or caffeinated drinks, it will make you feel less tired, and it will boost your energy levels.
Notably, caffeine can affect certain signalling systems in the brain, and it will be beneficial for your mental focus. Some studies observed better reaction time, short term recall, and improved alertness in participants who took a single drink containing 37.5mg of coffee.
Every person wants to be creative, smart focused, and productive as possible, and yerba mate could be what is missing to help you do that. As mentioned earlier, yerba mate contains moderate caffeine levels. Caffeine has several brain-enhancing effects. It improves alertness, memory, and mood. Also, it helps keep you productive and motivated by stimulating the production of dopamine.
In addition to caffeine, yerba mate contains two other stimulating compounds, theophylline and theobromine. The three stimulants work together to provide a mild and unique stimulating effect. Unlike mainstream energy drinks where users experience sudden energy spikes and crashes, yerba mate keeps you productive for long hours.
Could boost physical performance
Some studies suggest that caffeine can reduce fatigue, improve muscle contractions, and boost sports performance by about 5%. Yerba mate contains a fair amount of caffeine, and you can expect a similar physical performance outcome.
Another study showed that drinking yerba mate improves your body’s ability to burn fat during exercise. hill. It could help you achieve better sports performance, and who doesn’t want that?
Yerba mate has a reputation for providing a gentle and calm energy boost. Unlike mainstream energy drinks and other caffeinated drinks, yerba mate offers a balanced and sustained energy boost. Many people believe that yerba mate gives you the mental alertness of coffee but without the side effects. It does not cause caffeine jitters and it rarely affects sleep quality. Yerba mate could be valuable for people experiencing chronic fatigue, physical fatigue or mental fatigue.
Can help fight infections
Yerba mate can help your body fight infections from fungi, bacteria, and parasites. A study found that a high dose of yerba mate extract was effective in fighting E. coli, a bacteria that usually causes food poisoning symptoms, such as indigestion and stomach cramps. Some agents in yerba mate extract could prevent the growth of Malassezia furfur, a fungus that causes dandruff, scaly skin, and skin rashes.
Another study suggested that yerba mate could provide protection against some intestinal parasites, however, the research was conducted on isolated cells. It is still unclear whether or not yerba mate could yield such benefits in the human body.
Might help you burn belly fat and lose weight
Current studies show that yerba mate could help boost metabolism and reduce appetite, which could help in weight loss. Not only did yerba mate reduce the number of fat cells in the body, but it also reduced the amount of fat they stored. Human studies suggest that it could increase the amount of fat that is burned to produce energy. Sounds like a great metabolic boost, if you ask us!
Can boost your immunity
The herb contains saponins that are natural ingredients containing anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. Also, it contains zinc, vitamins C and E, and selenium. These natural compounds are antioxidants that can strengthen your immune system and also promote your overall health.
Yerba mate has a high concentration of saponins, which are natural emulsifiers that boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Saponins and other antioxidants regulate an overactive immune response which can lead to seasonal allergies, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
Might lower blood sugar
Yerba mate could help not only in reducing blood sugar but also reducing the complications associated with diabetes. Some studies reveal that it can improve insulin signalling while reducing the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGES). These by-products are involved in the occurrence, development, and worsening of many chronic conditions. However, there is a need for additional research to support these findings, but we say there’s no harm in adding yerba mate to your routine to hydrate, get energized, and boost your health.
Could lower your risk of heart disease
Yerba mate contains antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols and derivatives that could protect you against heart disease. Animal and cell studies have proved that mate extract can provide protection against heart disease. It can also protect your heart by reducing cholesterol levels. A 40-day study on participants who drank 330ml of yerba mate daily showed that it reduces cholesterol levels by up to 13.1%.
Can kill cancer cells
One study states that yerba mate has several anti-cancer compounds, such as chlorophyll, saponins, chlorogenic acid, ursolic acid, tannin, and rutin. During a test tube study, yerba mate extract was added to human colon cancer cells, and it was observed that the cancer cells self-destruct. There is a need for additional studies to confirm these findings, but we certainly believe that this plant is potent.
Can strengthen your bones
Though drinking caffeine is normally linked with bone mineral loss, the high concentration of micronutrients in yerba mate can actually increase bone density. One study showed that postmenopausal women who were at risk of osteoporosis and who regularly drank yerba mate had a 10% greater bone density than women who did not drink yerba mate. It’s basically even better than milk.
Can be used as a digestive and elimination tonic
Yerba mate has been used for several centuries in treating indigestion, constipation, and diarrhoea. Its antibacterial properties are vital in combating E. coli, bacteria that usually causes food poisoning. Also, one saponin in yerba mate can destroy intestinal parasites. Yerba mate can also treat and prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections. One study indicates that it has several benefits for your digestive system.
Yerba mate por favor!
We have long been fans of yerba mate and we knew we needed to showcase this brilliant botanical as one of our star ingredients. Our Latin Lover and God’s Milk are a tribute to yerba mate, its fascinating flavours and rich cultural footprint.
What is Latin Lover?
Latin Lover is a 250ml botanical drink that contains yerba mate, green tea, jalapeno, and lemongrass. It comes in a 24-pack case because let’s face it, you can never have enough Latin Lover(s). A natural energy drink that is low in calorie and contains 100% natural ingredients, no artificial colours or flavours, no preservatives and no other nasties either. This drink will get you fired up and transport you to warm summer nights on the beaches of Uruguay - even if you’re stuck at home in self-isolation.